Fair warning: I actually liked this movie. It's not going down in history as a classic horror film, but it's better than many that I've seen as of late. Definite Asian horror flavor (as it should be since that was where it was born), but with a more Americanized flavor to the overall story. A lot of critics call it boring, but I chalk this up to short attention spans.
Technical things: this is a highly technical movie. They had some seriously expensive camera cranes and steadicams, and they used them a lot. I don't think I saw the camera on a lockdown shot until in the second half of the movie. I wanted to scream out of jealousy.
The lighting: fabulous. Certainly helped along by shooting with some exquisite 35mm cameras and lenses that cost more than my house is worth, but the lighting design was top-notch. It never got in the way, but served to enhance the mood and move the story along.
Budget: somewhere in the $50-60 Million range. Made something like $160 M gross, so it's a profitable franchise. Figure Ring Three within the next 3 years.
Rule of thumb is that you can get to 80% of the quality of a film for 20% of the cost. Those numbers hold up surprisingly well in a lot of areas, but talking about the quality of a film has a truly subjective component to it that I don't want to mess with, so I'll just talk technical quality here.
So figure that an 80-percenter of a 50 million movie would be a ten million dollar movie. 80 percent of that would be two million, etc. If you keep playing with the numbers, you finally end up at a $3200-budget movie being somewhere in the 21% quality range.
Not being able to shoot on film makes for a big image-quality hit, just because of the physical properties of film and the exposure latitude and control that it offers. But a film camera is expensive to operate, aside from the cost of the film stock and processing, there is the support personnel for the camera (3 people minimum on most shoots) and ancillary equipment (cranes, dollies, track, etc.).
Not having soundstage space to build sets where the lighting and effects can be tightly controlled means being at the mercy of the elements and the kindnes of strangers, whose welcome can be worn out rather easily when you start saying things like "hey, would you mind if we cut a hole in your floor so we can get the camera lower and do an up-shot?".
Not having the ability to shoot greenscreen and add CGI makes the effects work harder-- but also somehow more satisfying.
Of course, not having to pay a multimillion-dollar salary to a star makes it nice, even though it doesn't make for good box-office draw. Though really, it would be nice to be able to pay everybody, that's not gonna happen on a $3k budget movie. Even feeding everybody becomes problematic.
I currently own enough equipment to make movies, and relatively decently. They're very much in the direct-to-DVD category at this level, but that puts me in some very good company. I figure it will be a while before I get a chance to break the $10,000 budget barrier.